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Anna White @ The Telegraph Spectacularly Misses The Point

Yesterday I thought the Editors at The Telegraph must have been sniffing Tippex when this piece appeared from Anna Burbridge, a breastfeeding volunteer.  It discusses how terms such as "Nazi" and "Breastapo" don't belong in a conversation about breastfeeders.  How nice I thought,  to see a piece offering an alternative view after that appalling article by Anna White.

Yet today they've let Anna White loose again, in a reply to Anna Burbidge.  Sigh #headdesk!

Of course there is no mention made of the crux of the argument, the fact a group of people are being stereotyped with insulting derogatory labels.

Just imagine mainstream papers referring to those who support male gay rights as "Bum Nazis", or those who support healthy eating and anti obesity as the "Fatapo".  It would never happen, there would be outrage.

Do we see the media referring to those not breastfeeding as "Formula Feeding Fascists"?  Noooo that would offend too many of their readers!

Remember the drama when Jade Goody in Big Brother (many years ago now) referred to Shilpa Shetty as "Shilpa Poppadom"? Tony Blair and Gordon Brown ended up involved in debate with the Indian Minister for External Affairs, who pointed out any kind of racism was unacceptable in any civilised society.

Quite right!

So will someone please explain why "civilised society" doesn't find discrimination based on sexual preference, gender, skin colour or culture acceptable, yet considers mothers who choose to feed their baby milk of the same species, and who ultimately ARE a minority as fair game?  We've even had a widely reputed TV doctor publicly referring to the "breastapo".

Anna didn't apologise for her terminology, instead attempting to justify it with further passive aggressive insults; anyone else wish she's drop her suitcase off before she sits at the keyboard?

I think aiming for impact at the expense of accuracy, is an interesting opening:
"The experienced lactation counsellor is leading a backlash against the breastfeeding backlash"
Is she?  did we read the same article?  I thought Anna Burbidge was leading a blacklash against the offensive names Anna called breastfeeding supporters, and tried to emphasise that she doesn't act in the way implied.

Anna says:
"Here’s about the size of it: a growing number of academics are questioning the presumed-to-be empirical evidence promoting the health benefits of giving babies the boob."
Well yes I guess technically it's a "growing number", from zero to one with Ms Joan Wolf.  I guess technically she's an academic, although whether a "women’s studies assistant professor" is qualified to examine medical research and make any earth shattering claims is another question altogether.  Even the formula manufacturers gave up trying to convince folks of that one and altered their marketing techniques.
"Concurrently mums are reacting to the pressure placed upon them by a faction of the post-natal community to breastfeed regardless of the impact on their wellbeing and therefore the wellbeing of their new born babies."
Who and where are these people that Anna claims are "pressuring mothers to breastfeed regardless of the impact on mum's wellbeing" exactly?  Many hospitals still don't even employ a qualified Lactation Consultant and only 4% of mothers in the UK are left exclusively breastfeeding by six months.

Anna Burbidge also clearly stated in her article that pressurising wasn't her bag anyway, so what relevance does it even have to her piece?

The trouble is, tell a mother X is best for her baby and the vast majority want it.  Tell them the alternative is not as good, and the pressure mothers place on themselves is greater than that anyone else could apply.  So it seems to me, we either stop paying lip service to breastfeeding and start providing the mums who want to do so with decent help, or we (as I suspect Anna would prefer) pretend the alternatives are nearly as good so nobody feels bad.

Because that's the reality.  Mention that not breastfeeding increases the risks of gastroenteritis (something even Wolf acknowledges), and I guarantee at least one of the replies will be along the lines of "way to go, making us that couldn't do it feel bad".

After a few more personal digs Anna continues:
"This isn't a personal attack against breastfeeding volunteers - they play an invaluable role within society, but widespread denial that there are health professionals who lurk within our natal system bullying vulnerable new mums, is dangerous."
Oh right, it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but it isn't one!  I see.  I think Anna is also in denial that there aren't health professionals lurking within our system, bullying vulnerable new mums to bottle feed. And from 9 years experience, I can tell you there are far more doctors and paediatricians doing this than pushing the breast.  Where are the articles complaining about this and did Wolf examine this side too?

Many mums I see have been told by their midwife or health visitor they must supplement with formula because their baby isn't gaining weight "as expected".  Nobody has assessed a full feed, or established why;  who needs to do that when we can tell mums that they're clearly just breastfeeding for themselves, it's time to move on - and with our wonder substitute we can see exactly how much baby is drinking!  Sometimes the parents are helpfully told if the baby hasn't gained at the next weigh in, then she will insist formula must be given; whilst giving them absolutely no support of how to try and maximise baby's gain in the meantime.

More still are told to perhaps "try a bottle" with their fussy baby, maybe the colic or wind would be less with a "comfort milk"?  Give a bottle so you can get a break from the realities of being a new mum.  Hell there is a whole book dedicated to the ways mums are pushed to bottle feed, perhaps someone could pop Anna White a copy in the post?

Anna clearly has got herself rather riled at this point as she spits:
"Recently one mother commented to me that she had breastfed her twins for 28 months. Firstly, get a life. And secondly that's the kind of smug, self-righteous attitude that fuels self-loathing and a sense of failure in other mums. What's wrong with this woman? Was she always picked last in PE? Becoming an Olympic breastfeeder does not compensate for other flaws and fundamentally it doesn't make you a better parent."
Get a life?   A mum breastfed her children for four months longer than the minimum recommended by WHO and she should "get a life".  How insulting to suggest mothers cannot "have a life" and breastfeed.  Sounds like something my friend's teenage son can be heard chuntering, rather than a supposedly mature mother of twins!

Secondly, I'm still trying to work out how telling someone the length of time you breastfed, can possibly fuel "self loathing and a sense of failure" in someone else.  I mean if this mother had told Anna that formula was crap, that her children had only received breastmilk and she wouldn't consider giving them something so processed; I could see Anna's point.  But if someone simply stating the number of months they fed evokes such powerful feelings of guilt and self loathing, perhaps the pertinent question is why?

Where is the cut off in terms of how long one can feed before making others feel self loathing failures?  Twelve months?  Six?  Six weeks?  Six days?  Where is the tipping point one must not state they have breastfed beyond?

I can't decide if Anna is asking "what's wrong with the woman?" because she breastfed for 28 months, or because she dared to tell Anna!  Who (apart from Anna) suggested breastfeeding compensates for other flaws, or that it made someone a better person?  That bag of Anna's must really be making her shoulders ache now!

Anna then moves on to a SCBU comment she overheard, a nurse telling a mother:
"I realise you are determined to breastfeed but you have a very small baby who needs to learn how to eat quickly. You may need to think about him not you and introduce a bottle soon." The mother refused.
Whoop Whoop!  Hurrah for the mother in question for recognising bullshit on a plate!  Bottle feeding is more stressful for preemies, with studies showing they experience more dips in oxygen saturation.  Best practice is not to introduce artificial teats if you are trying to establish breastfeeding, full information here.  The mother was thinking about her son, how utterly ignorant of the SCBU nurse to say she was being selfish!  Of course this horrendous lack of support is perceived by someone with no training as "tailoring advice to suit each case", the reasonable middle ground.

Then again SCBU units in the UK are hardly setting the world alight with their use of evidence based medicine, hence why we're still separating mothers and babies and making establishing feeding a hundred times harder.

I think the only point Anna and I do agree on is:
"We need more information and earlier, about formula feeding, what may prevent breast feeding, and how emotionally to cope if unable to breastfeed."
Not least because that might save our brains from the constant supply of emotionally fuelled articles such as this in our newspapers...


  1. I feel very sorry for Anna White. I bet she desperately wanted to breastfeed but couldn't. Since she hadn't done it, she doesn't know what she is talking about.

  2. Yeah I felt sorry for her two articles ago - now I just want her to stop! lol

    1. Oh God! I didn't even feel sorry for her then. Why are they still allowing her to write for them? Oh, I know, because every time she writes one of her hate-filled pathetic "articles", she pisses off so many people that they tell their friends who then read the articles and the site gets more hits and the Telegraph makes more money from advertising. It seems that the worse a writer she is, the more stupid and infuriating her comments, the better for them.

    2. A good point. I was almost tempted to go on their site and post some negative feeback against this psycho but you have stopped me. I will just boycott their rag instead, which means my Telegraph Fantasy Football Team will not be having any more substitutions this season!

  3. Well said AA! Lol

  4. Oh dear, poor woman. She really should save her ranting for a therapist! Great article, thanks!

  5. Pure gold. Thank you!

  6. Fab article, cutting through the s***. Thank you!! Why any newspaper would publish such emotionally-charged, inaccurate and poorly researched, badly written drivel (as Anne White's articles) is beyond me anyway, no matter what the subject.

  7. It seems her articles are some kind of personal catharsis for the apparent subconscious guilt she feels for not breastfeeding her children beyond the first weeks. She's the one who should 'get a life'.

    I do find it amusing where she scores an own goal by relating a story of a mother who was pressurised to bottle feed ... in an article about mothers being pressurised breastfeed. Doh!

  8. Anita Kolaczynska7 March 2013 at 23:18

    Made my day reading this,thanks -eloquently humorous as ever.

  9. Thank you, from Anna Burbidge! I knew I might get some negative responses but I didn't expect such a personal attack from Anna White, or such an strange misinterpretation of what I was trying to say. I'm not a professional writer I just wanted to try to point out how insults are thrown at breastfeeding supporters which are normally considered totally unacceptable. I hoped perhaps in future writers might pause and think about it - sadly I was overly optimistic. Thanks, as always, for a brilliant blog. Anna

  10. Please can I marry you and have your interwebz baybees??? Hammered home the nail with precision as usual, AA.

  11. awesome piece if writing in response to utter crap by the telegraph - thankyou for making me laugh following my blood boil rage at original article!!!

    1. Me too. Great article, thanks for writing. I just wish someone at the Telegraph would read it and sack her at once.

  12. As a mum within that small 4%, being branded a "Nazi/Breastapo" does make me feel mildly offended. Especially as I was one of those mothers pressured into bottle feeding with my 1st baby, 2nd time around I think I'm doing exceptionally well (16 months with no end in sight). When he finishes (4yrs ish I reckon), I might e-mail her let her know!
    It's just a shame that people have to read her rubbish. A real shame. Everything she writes in this article (apart from the fact that folks need more information) is pretty much the opposite to what research tells us is the truth. Heartbreaking really isn't it?! :O(

  13. Well said. I was starting to feel really angry about this article, but then remembered how controversy sells papers and calmed down a bit. I just wish women would be allowed to make their own choices without criticism from other women, it's really not what we need is it. Can't we all just support each other in our choices whether breastfeeding for 28 months or bottle feeding from 3, it would make the world a much nicer place.

  14. Actually I can understand where Anna White is coming from, although I do think that her language and style was inappropriate for that platform. I couldn't bf my baby instead, due to a range of reasons, feeding him EBM for 4 months, and I got a fair amount of negativity for 'bottle feeding' even though it was EBM. People assumed that it was easier for me (well yes obviously feeding a tiny baby who doesn't want to eat and takes an hour to drink an ounce, then expressing, then washing all the bottles/pumping paraphenalia, then sterilising it all, every 2-3 hours was really easy - and although the speed improved the 2-3 hourly feeds lasted 3 months), that he was in a routine not demand-fed and all sorts of rubbish. I never thought that I wouldn't bf, in the middle class area that I live, the way I'd been brought up bottle feeding just wasn't on my radar. The pressure to bf was immense, and I was happy with that as 'best for baby'. I agree with what serendipitychild says above, whatever choice the Mum makes I'm sure often isn't an easy one and we should be more supportive of each other.

  15. But ANON the point is this happens both ways! "The pressure to bf was immense" - from whom?


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